Do You Manage Expectations? – 25/03/2019

We have touched upon this before about how people expect a good service as soon as they enter into a contract with you. This is as simple as ordering from the local takeaway and expecting your order to be correct, fresh and hot, through to ordering next day delivery on a parcel or signing a 12 month contract on a phone line. Each time we hand over money, we have a preset expectation of that business or person.

Things go wrong sometimes, that‘s life and most people are pretty reasonable with this as it happens to them too, even with the best will in the world! However not everyone has the mindset to always be flexible, understanding or amenable if something doesn‘t go 100% right. Sometimes it‘s actually indirect anger or frustration you receive as you are “one in a long list of things” going wrong for them. None the less, it‘s an expectation they have which they are convinced you haven‘t met so how do you cope with that as the business in question?

Firstly, check your marketing message. Whilst it‘s great promising X, Y or Z, if you don‘t deliver for any reason, they will see you as having failed them. Look at companies who say “if you order by 6pm, you‘ll receive it the next day”. What happens when the truck the order is on breaks down and is delayed? It‘s out of the businesses control yet the customer misses out on the “promise” you made. Only ever make firm promises if you are able to handle the potential fall out if it goes wrong. It doesn‘t matter if you think it‘s unfair and unjust, they had a preset expectation and you didn‘t match it so now you have to fix it. No one likes confrontation so make sure your message covers you to be “human” too because mistakes WILL happen, even the ones out of your control!

Always make sure you‘re honest. It‘s hard (too hard) to keep up a lie long term and if your customer finds out, the trust between you is broken. If you mess up, fess up! Most people will appreciate the truth……..if it affects them in some detrimental way then approach the conversation with some damage control already you have already thought about that could help. If for example their order will be late, offer alternatives, resend it first class/courier or if that isn‘t possible, offer them a discount off their next purchase.

Listen to people. You might think it‘s just their “opinion” but it may have some validity to it. Ask for feedback, why are they not satisfied? Was it the price? Quality? Something else? Don‘t be defensive with them, even though it‘s the natural instinct we have when questioned. If you are confident that you did as you had set out then don‘t be afraid to be firm but make sure you are always polite, respectful and continue to listen. Sometimes the customer service during an issue can be the make/break of a long term customer relationship.

So how do you make it better for the future?

Reflect on a customers comments. Reflect upon how they came to this thought pattern, was it something you did or didn‘t say? Usually conflict comes from a place of uncertainty or miscommunication. Never leave a meeting or phone call wondering if they understood what you meant or not correcting them if they say something wrong. Always make it clear, easy to follow and where possible, send a follow up email outlining what you have spoken about during that meeting. That way they have something they can prompt themselves with and more importantly, should there be an issue in the future, you have proof that you didn‘t mis-sell anything.

Don‘t go into a meeting in a mad rush to get your words out. Let conversation flow, prompt them to ask you questions and ask them ones too. Meetings solidify a lot better when they are full of communications and genuine smiles. During hard or boring meetings, people switch off or their mind wanders and again, you leave the door open for potential confusion.

Don‘t be afraid to go with your gut instinct. Often we‘ll have a “thought” or “feeling” about something. Never be afraid to question that or address it, no one will look down on you for checking something to make sure it‘s right.

It‘s better to question as you go rather than leave them disappointed at the end. You have the chance to make changes during the journey, but it‘s too late at the end!